The 2012 Republican presidential nominee told top donors in a conference call Obama followed the "old playbook" of offering big-government largess to win votes from specific interest groups, "especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people," The New York Times, one of two newspapers on the call, reported.
Romney has not delivered public remarks since conceding defeat in the presidential election Nov. 6.
"In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups," Romney told the donors, many of whom Politico said were still angry over Romney's loss they didn't see coming.
He lost the popular vote to Obama 50.6 percent to 47.8 percent but lost the electoral vote 61.7 percent to 38.3 percent. Obama got 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206.
"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift," he said. "Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them because, as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents' plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008."
Obama's healthcare plan also brought out pro-Obama black and Latino voters, Romney said.
Exit polls indicated 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics voted to re-elect Obama, while Romney won 59 percent of the white vote.
"You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you're now going to get free healthcare, particularly if you don't have it, getting free healthcare worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge," the Times quoted Romney as saying.
A major part of Romney's platform was repealing the healthcare law, which he said would hurt job growth.
"Likewise with Hispanic voters, free healthcare was a big plus. But in addition, with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group," Romney said.
He added the Obama campaign was effective in painting him as "anti-immigrant," the Los Angeles Times reported.
The big gifts amounted to an Obama campaign making "a big effort on small things," Romney said. "Those small things, by the way, add up to trillions of dollars."
By contrast, his own campaign, he said, "was talking about big issues for the whole country -- military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth."
He said he was "very sorry that we didn't win. I know that you expected to win, we expected to win, we were disappointed with the result, we hadn't anticipated it, and it was very close, but close doesn't count in this business."
He said his campaign's strategy "worked well with many people, but for those who were given a specific gift, if you will, our strategy did not work terribly well," the Los Angeles Times quoted him as saying.
Romney dismissed reports of infighting in his campaign. He also did not address complaints about glitches in his campaign's get-out-the-vote efforts.
Politico said his comments were similar to the "47 percent" remarks he made May 17 at a private, $50,000-a-plate, secretly videotaped fundraiser.
At that event, at hedge fund manager Marc Leder's mansion in Boca Raton, Fla., Romney said "47 percent" of Americans "who are dependent upon government -- who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it" -- "will vote for the president no matter what."
Romney said in the phone call Wednesday he and his team were discussing how to keep the campaign's national finance committee and donor group connected -- perhaps with annual meetings or a monthly newsletter -- "so we can stay informed and have influence on the direction of the party, and perhaps the selection of a future nominee -- which, by the way, will not be me," the longtime presidential hopeful said with a sardonic chuckle.
Romney said he was trying to turn his thoughts to his plans going forward.
"But frankly we're still so troubled by the past, it's hard to put together our plans for the future," he said.